Renaissance woman Whitney Wright may have learned the sorcery of one-ingredient corn butter on the line at Per Se restaurant in New York City, but it's all the delicious ways she uses it that are really genius: Spread it on toast and biscuits as you would butter (without needing to wait for it to soften!), fold it into vegetables in place of cream, blend it into ice creams and milkshakes, and the list goes on. See Whitney’s full set of ideas in the Genius article here.
As Whitney wrote for Gilt Taste back in 2012, “Everyone loves corn’s simple, on-the-cob goodness, but what if I told you that in just three simple moves you can turn corn into something as silky as pastry cream, as flavorful as preserves, and as satisfying as butter? This corn ‘butter’ was a staple on my station at Per Se, where we stirred it into a sweet corn risotto. The magic happens because of the natural starches in the corn (cornstarch, duh); as the starches in the kernels are heated and agitated, they thicken into a smooth, pudding-like spread that tastes like the purest, sweetest corn flavor because that’s all that’s in it…The best part about this technique is that you only really need one ingredient—corn. You can season the corn butter with salt and actual butter if you’re inclined, but it’s not strictly necessary.”
A few tips: Because the sugars in corn begin to convert to starches after harvesting, Whitney mentioned that this is a great use for the ears of corn you bought a few days ago and haven’t gotten around to cooking—they’ll be starchier and will thicken up nicely. Fresher sweet corn will also thicken just fine, but you may want to let it reduce a bit further over low heat, whisking frequently, depending on how thick you’d like it. (Note that it will continue to set and thicken as it cools.)
Recipe adapted slightly from Whitney Wright & Gilt Taste. —Genius Recipes
Cut off kernels: Use a chef's knife to cut the kernels from each ear. To wrangle the kernels, arrange towels around the cutting board and cut the corn in the center of the circle. Or balance the ear in the center of a Bundt pan and cut. Or lay the ear on its side and slice the kernels off with a sturdy chef’s knife. 8 ears of corn will yield 4 to 5 cups of kernels. If you’re a go-getter, you can also scrape the back of your knife along the cob to get the juice.
Blend (or juice): Your best move is to juice the kernels. But if you don’t have a juicer, put the kernels in a blender or food processor and buzz them up like crazy—let the blender run on the highest speed (I’m talking the “liquefy” setting) for about 2 minutes. Once the kernels are blended into a smooth puree, pass the puree through a strainer with a rubber spatula. Ta-da! Corn juice.
Whisk and cook: Here’s where the magic happens. Pour the juice into a medium saucepan. Heat the juice over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and the frothy bubbles begin to disappear, about 4 minutes. When the mixture is thick and bubbling, whisk and cook for about 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat.
Season (optional): Taste it—and look for sweet, smooth, earthy, and buttery. If you want, add a few pinches of salt and pats of butter. The corn butter will keep for about 3 to 5 days in the fridge.